An Interpreter’s job involves three elements that coexist simultaneously: the ability to rapidly translate new ideas and transmit them, all while listening to the speaker, who never stops expressing new ideas. Interpreters may be self-employed or work for an agency dedicated to providing such services in conferences and other similar public events.
Interpreters usually specialize in and work with two languages, their native language and any other chosen language. However, they may also specialize in a third or even a fourth language, provided they possess high levels of fluency in either one.
There is a common misconception that Interpreters and Translators are the same. Even though they’re both language experts, these two careers shouldn’t be confused with one another, and the main difference between them is what they translate. While Interpreters work with oral communications, Translators work with the written word; notwithstanding, many of these professionals provide both types of services.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Interpreters are required to complete.
- Conveying a message originally expressed in a language into another, either at the same time as someone speaks or following the initial speech using special equipment (e.g. from a booth, using a microphone and earphones) when necessary:
- Doing research previous to the event (e.g. conference, meeting, or speech) in order to be familiar with the subject matter and to anticipate the speaker’s sentences;
- getting in touch with the speaker prior to the event, if possible, in order to get an idea or sense of what is going to be said or discussed;
- being proficient in the use of complex terminology and technical language;
- listening, interpreting, and speaking at the same time someone else is speaking, ensuring that the message relayed remains the same;
- maintaining the same rhythm and intonation as the speaker in order to convey a message with the same intention;
- taking notes so as to not miss any details during the speech;
- informing of any equipment malfunction or technical problems that might interfere with the fulfillment of their job; and
- assisting tourists and foreign visitors by accompanying them and serving as their personal Interpreters.
- Working with another Interpreter, taking turns to interpret:
- Following the speaker’s speech at all times and being ready to assist the second Interpreter in case of an emergency.
- Providing translation services for the hearing-impaired using sign-language:
- Displaying high proficiency in the use of American Sign Language (ASL) and all of its intricacies.
- Working as an Interpreter before a court of law, a hospital, or a public institution when necessary:
- Providing interpreting services in court by reading legal documents aloud in different languages or accurately translating spoken testimonies; and
- providing their services in a hospital, especially when patients and doctors don’t speak the same language.
- Conveying concepts from one language to another, ensuring the meaning and intonation stay true to the original.
- Preparing for incoming projects beforehand by doing all the necessary research and studying.
- Working efficiently with other Interpreters.
The average Interpreter salary in USA is $46,709 per year or $24 per hour. This is around 1.6 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $33,000 while most experienced workers make up to $65,000. These results are based on 1,061 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Possessing high levels of concentration, focus, and attention to details:
- Being capable of simultaneously listen and translate a continuous flow of ideas.
- Strong grasp of the languages they’re working with, grammar structures, and specialized or technical terminology.
- Impeccable communication and interpersonal skills:
- Displaying high levels of fluency in at least two languages;
- being able to project their voices so that the entire audience can hear;
- being capable of thinking through or understanding new, complex, and technical concepts in order to convey them through another language; and
- being capable of maintaining a friendly and professional relation with their customers.
- Possessing high levels of cultural awareness and sensitivity:
- Being knowledgeable about the cultural backgrounds of the target language and audience.
- Analytical and investigative skills:
- Effectively researching, reading, and interpreting information.
- Possessing the necessary manual dexterity in order to fluently communicate in sign language.
- Outstanding levels of honesty and responsibility:
- Handling sensitive or confidential information;
- being capable of separating their emotions and prejudice from their work; and
- following strict ethical guidelines and client confidentiality rules.
- Strong organizational and time management skills:
- Being capable of working under pressure and reacting quickly while interpreting;
- being flexible, willing to work within constantly changing priorities; and
- having strong multitasking skills; being able to work independently and as part of a team in a dynamic, fast-paced environment.
In order to get a job as an Interpreter in the US, applicants have to be American citizens or be legal residents of the United States. A bachelor’s degree in Translation, Interpretation, Languages, or English are ideal for these professionals as it will help them develop a comprehensive understanding of grammar, syntax, semiotics, and cultural backgrounds. Most companies only hire Interpreters who have related work experience, from one (1) to three (3) years, which can also be obtained through volunteer work.
Translators need to take part in a training program, usually offered by vocational colleges and universities, in order to learn how to perform this job. Similarly, specialized Interpreters (e.g. experts on IT, Finance, Oil, Engineer, etc.) usually have a master’s degree in their respective fields.
Interpreters can pass the court interpreting exams in any state to prove their knowledge and expertise. Additionally, the field’s most sought-after certifications include, but are not limited to, the following:
The number of languages an Interpreter masters usually translates to experience; the more, the better. Professionals in the area that can speak languages spoken in countries with growing economies, such as Arabic or Mandarin, may also have an edge against the competition. Immersing themselves into the culture tied to each language is essential, as well as a great advantage for the candidate since this experience confers the possibility of learning about the different cultural and linguistic intricacies of several regions.
Interpreters are most commonly self-employed and work in different, irregular schedules. They usually perform their job on an 8-hour basis. However, jobs can be scarce in some months of the year. Therefore, they usually combine interpretation with other professional activities.
The job of an Interpreter is considered very unique. These professionals sometimes have the opportunity of traveling all over the world and meeting interesting people.